How to Get Over a Breakup (Besides Scream-Singing Taylor Swift)

Here's what relationship experts have to say about letting go.
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Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
Dina Cheney - The Knot Contributor.
Dina Cheney
The Knot Contributor
  • Dina writes for The Knot Worldwide, specializing in food, travel and relationships.
  • With more than 20 years of experience in service journalism, she also pens articles and recipes for publications, such as Good Housekeeping, Parents, SELF, Health, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, Prevention, Fine Cooking, Weight Watchers and Diabetic Living.
  • Dina graduated from Columbia College, Columbia University and The Institute of Cul...
Updated Aug 14, 2023

Anyone who has been through one will tell you that there is no one-fits-all remedy or quick cure when it comes to how to get over a breakup. Whether it's working through Taylor Swift's entire discography or re-watching every one of your favorite sob-fest movies, there are plenty of ways to seek solace. Nonetheless, there are some expert-backed steps to take when getting over a breakup.

To help you navigate through heartbreak, we collected the time-tested wisdom of psychologists, relationship experts and mental health professionals. Begin your healing journey with the following advice on how to get over a breakup.

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Breakup?

According to Shelley Galasso Bonanno, MA, a Michigan-based psychotherapist and limited licensed psychologist, every breakup is a unique situation and experience. "Not unlike grief, the healing process varies from person to person," she says. "Some may bounce back relatively quickly, while others require more time to heal their emotional wounds."

Similar to the death of a loved one, a breakup is a loss and can trigger a grieving process, she adds. "Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance are common emotional stages of grief that individuals may experience." Since everyone moves through the stages at different speeds, there is no hard-and-fast rule for how long it takes to get over a breakup. Expect the process to take some time, and don't put pressure on yourself to rush things.

Here's How to Get Over a Breakup

As mentioned above, there's unfortunately no magic bullet when getting through a breakup. However, there are steps you can take to begin to feel better. Here's how to start the process of letting go.

1. Make time and space to grieve

Let yourself feel your feelings, counsels Robert Solley, Ph.D., a San Francisco-based clinical psychologist who specializes in couples and individual adult therapy. "Don't push them away or distract yourself—you don't want to bypass the grief," he says, explaining that unprocessed feelings can emerge in indirect ways, such as anxiety.

Again, resist the urge to put a timeline on your grief. "Each person should allow themselves the necessary time and space to heal at their own pace," Bonanno adds. "We're all unique with unique histories of trauma and loss, which can impact our resilience and ability to heal."

2. Realize that all things must pass

James Giles, Ph.D., a relationship expert, adjunct professor of psychology at Roskilde University, and author of Sexual Attraction: The Psychology of Allure, suggests taking a philosophical approach, citing a quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher, Chuang-Tzu.

"Life is like the headlong gallop of a horse, speeding along, changing with every movement, and altering with every minute. As to what you should and should not do? Just go with this process of change."

So, if the breakup was beyond your control, one needs to accept it as one of life's inevitable changes. "You cannot control every change that comes along—but you can control how you choose to view that change," says Dr. Giles.

3. Remember that endings often come with new beginnings

The end of your relationship presents you with the beginning of a new era in your life, reminds Dr. Giles. Consider new possibilities, like whether you want to pursue someone you've always liked, sign up for a dating app or take a break from relationships to focus on yourself.

"You're now free to go in whatever direction you choose," says Dr. Giles.

4. Contemplate the benefits of the breakup

Your inclination might be to focus on the losses, observes Dr. Giles. Instead, try pondering the advantages: Ask yourself what you've gained from the end of your relationship, whether it be more free time to explore new hobbies or a better idea of what you want from a relationship. By focusing on the positives, you'll gradually push thoughts about losses to the side.

5. ...But appreciate the relationship for what it was

At the same time, acknowledge your ended relationship as part of your lived experience. "The joys and happiness you had in the relationship are not somehow tainted or removed just because the relationship ended," points out Dr. Giles.

"Just as the death of a loved one doesn't mean the good times you had with them are now bad times, so too a breakup doesn't mean the loving times you had before the breakup are now unloving times," Dr. Giles further explains. "When you had them, they were beautiful, and they still are."

6. Know you're becoming more resilient

Take a cue from philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who said, "What doesn't kill me, makes me stronger," suggests Dr. Giles. The experience you're gaining from the breakup should boost your abilities to cope with future challenges, he notes.

7. Make art

Channeling your emotions into creating a poem, song or drawing should help you release your feelings and move on. As Dr. Giles points out, "Many beautiful works of art come from the pain of a relationship's end." (Just ask the aforementioned T. Swift.)

"You can also later reflect on your creation to help understand your feelings," adds Dr. Giles.

8. Listen to music about breakups

Go on and cue up that extra-weepy Spotify playlist. Hearing and contemplating music about breakups—like Dr. Giles's recommendation, "Turn Your Back On Me" by the Psychedelic Furs—is a reminder that even in sorrow, there can be beauty, he reflects.

9. Share your feelings with someone you trust

Discuss your emotions with a trusted confidante. "Generally, the more you can talk about your emotions, the better you'll process them," says Dr. Solley. If the intensity of your grieving persists for more than a few weeks and interferes with your life, consider seeing a therapist, he recommends.

10. Let go

When talking about your feelings and relationship, try to resist badmouthing your ex or holding onto anger, counsels Dr. Giles. "This just keeps the wound festering. It stokes your attachment to your ex-partner and hinders you from breaking free."

Owning your role in any struggles should help you grieve and accept the breakup, adds Dr. Solley.

11. End all contact

"That part of your life is over—it's time to move on," says Dr. Giles. While we regonize that it may not be possible in all situations, Dr. Giles recommends deleting your ex's contact information and avoid texting, calling or following them on social media.

12. Remove signs of the relationship

Dispose of relationship mementos or stow them out of sight, advises Dr. Giles. Otherwise, they'll constantly trigger memories of your time together.

13. Rearrange your living quarters

By tweaking your home, you'll feel you're making a fresh start, explains Dr. Giles. Plus, since your space will look different, it won't remind you as much of your ex.

For example, give away the blanket they always reached for during movie nights, or if they introduced you to a certain candle, try one in a different scent.

14. Avoid alcohol and drugs

Although substances might temporarily mask the pain, they won't enable you to resolve it, counsels Dr. Giles. In lieu of ranting over glasses of wine with your bestie, try meeting up for ice cream or a walk in the park instead.

15. Watch out for sex rebound

A common response to a breakup is to embark on various sexual encounters to compensate for the loss of a partner, notes Dr. Giles. "Sex in itself is good," he says, but only when enjoyed for its own sake and not when used "to mask the pain of the breakup," according to Dr. Giles.

16. Take care of yourself

Your feelings of sadness might crowd out your motivations to eat healthfully, exercise and sleep well. But remember to prioritize your wellbeing, urges Dr. Solley. This is the time to splurge on a massage, hike through a natural park you haven't yet explored or try a new bubble bath blend.

Bonanno also agrees: "Engaging in self-care promotes personal growth and aids in the healing process."

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